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Rise Above Plastics

Rise Above Plastics

Mission: To reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.

Simple local actions can help make an impact to solve this global issue.  Join us in protecting the coast and Rise Above Plastics!  Why Rise Above Plastics? Half of all plastics produced go into single-use applications. HALF. The vast majority is either not recyclable or is not being recycled and end up in landfills, waterways or the ocean. Eight million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Approximately 5.25 trillion particles of “plastic smog” weighing 270,000 tons pollute the ocean worldwide.

Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Rain or over watering flushes that litter through a storm drain system or directly to creeks, streams and rivers that lead to the ocean. Some parts of the ocean are like a plastic soup, with 6 lbs of plastic for every 1 lb of plankton. Approximately 60-80% of marine debris is composed of plastics, with 90% of marine plastic pollution coming from land.  Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million sea birds die each year from ingestion or entanglement in plastics.  After plastics enter the marine environment, they slowly photo-degrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, often with fatal result. Ocean gyres concentrate plastic pollution in five main areas of the world’s ocean and various research groups are bringing back alarming data documenting plastics impacts.

Shopping bags are a common form form of plastic pollution. In the US, we use 100 billion plastic bags a year, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. The typical American household brings home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. Only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling, so the average household recycles 15 bags a year, with the rest going to landfills or as litter. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes. In the ocean, turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, their favorite food, and eat them. Bags block the turtle’s digestive tract, causing them to get very weak or die.

A Duke marine biologist recently discovered that plastic has a taste that attracts wildlife. Animals perceive the oils in plastic as fat. Animals are the front line victims of plastic pollution, which then moves up the food chain.

Recent studies estimate that fish off the West Coast ingest over 12,000 tons of plastic a year. Microplastics attract nasty pollutants, making them up to one million times more toxic than the water around them. Plastic microfibers are in our drinking water, sea salt, and much of the seafood we consume. What’s the long-term effects of consuming microplastics? We don’t know.

So all of this terrible—what can we do to help? Refuse, reduce, reuse and then recycle. REFUSE first. We’ve been told for years that recycling is the answer. It’s not. With plastics, recycling is more complicated than it seems. Plastic is not recycled as much as it is downcycled. Right now, our local facilities are just accepting #1 and #2 plastics, and the rest go to a landfill.

The best option is to refuse plastic when possible and use durable goods instead.


* Skip the straw!
* Bring your own cup/bottle
* Use bamboo cutlery
* Stash a couple of reusable to-go containers in your car
* Support your local Ocean-Friendly Establishments
* BYOB—Bring Your Own Bag
* No balloons–balloons kill wildlife
* Buy less stuff + buy used stuff


* Ban the bead – use bar soap instead
* Use a bamboo toothbrush
* Invest in a lifetime razor
* Use natural fibers where possible: cotton, linen, and silk last longer than plastics like polyester and don’t leach microplastics into the environment
* No Kpods—they’re not only bad for the environment, but they also make truly terrible coffee
* Recycle plastic bags + films. Locally, Lowes, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Food Lion, WalMart, Kohl’s and JC Penney accept both bags and plastic wraps
* Visit to find locations near you and see what you can recycle


* Participate in local cleanups
* Ask local businesses you frequent to reduce their plastic use
* Tweet or email larger corporations, they listen and care what their customers think
* Vote and show up—ask candidates and your elected reps questions
* Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends
* Model Behavior and lead by example
* Volunteer with a local organization to help protect the Cape Fear region


Beth Terry, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
Susan Freinkel, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story
Jeffrey Meikle, American Plastic
Cassandra Phillips Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans
Contact our Rise Above Plastics Coordinator, Austin Sistrunk